Amherst Climate Justice Coalition surveys candidates

The Amherst Climate Justice Coalition surveyed Council candidates on a variety of climate and sustainability issues. Below are my responses. For the questions, candidates had four response options: Prioritize, Support, Don’t Support, No Answer.

General Background: Prioritization, Budget, Staffing for Climate Action

  • Ensure fulfillment of Climate Action goals is a top priority in capital and operating budgets – No answer
  • Embed climate/climate justice lens across departments­ – Support
  • Add 2 full time positions in Sustainability Department – No answer
  • Hold Town Manager to implementing yearly climate action goals – Support
  • Adopt greenhouse gas reducing and zero waste actions in the Climate Action, Adaptation and Resilience Plan – No answer
  • Adopt a climate emergency declaration – Don’t support

Candidate comments: Overarching climate actions

Meeting the Council’s Climate Action Goals is a top priority. If re-elected, I will continue supporting concrete actions that will help meet these goals, such as capital funding for HVAC conversions to electric, zero-energy buildings, and adoption of the specialized stretch code.

Some explanation of my responses: I hesitated to respond with “prioritize”, as I interpreted that to mean that as a Councilor, I would specifically propose legislation that could accomplish the item. Since many of these questions are not legislative in action, I did not believe them something I could “Prioritize”. Many times, my answer of “No answer” should be interpreted as “it depends”, but the details are important. As a legislator, I have an obligation to consider the cost impacts of actions, both to the town and to other policy priorities, and therefore, while I may generally support an action, my ultimate vote depends on the feasibility of taking that action in the context of budgets, other priorities, and impact compared to other possible actions.

Renewable Energy

  • Accelerate Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) application, launch and implementation – No answer
  • Launch Joint Powers Entity over the CCA including a community advisory committee – No answer
  • Create solar canopy on ARPS parking lot – Support
  • Ensure zero energy operation of new elementary school – Support
  • Site large scale solar arrays on parking lots, rooftops, brownfields, not on forested land, prioritize ag land to support local food security – No answer

Candidate comments: Energy/Electricity

It is imperative we work to move to renewable energy. I chose “No answer” to the CCA questions because it is my understanding the Town is doing its best to implement it, and there is no further action required for the Council. I chose “No answer” for the solar siting question because I am awaiting the Solar Bylaw Working Group’s draft bylaw and will look at their recommendations seriously. However, I support, as a first choice, installing solar on parking lots, rooftops, and brownfields.

Greening Buildings/Affordable Housing

  • Adopt greener building code – Support
  • Electrify and retrofit municipal buildings and equipment – Support
  • Facilitate retrofitting of apartment complexes for energy efficiency, working with landlords (lowering tenant costs) – Support
  • Ban new methane hook ups in Amherst in case the gas moratorium ends – No answer
  • Create a resilience hub to protect against grid blackouts in new or existing building – No answer

Candidate comments: Greening Buildings/Affordable Housing

In committee, I voted to recommend the Council adopt the Specialized Energy Code, and intend to vote to adopt it when in front of the Council in October. I did not answer the last two questions because I need more information on them before forming an opinion.

Greening Transportation

  • Accelerate transition of town fleet to EVs and EV infrastructure  – Support
  • Increase pedestrian/bicycle access, in particular serving apartment complexes – Support
  • Increase bus routes and access in Amherst, in particular serving apartment complexes – Support

Candidate comments: Greening Transportation

I support increasing use of greener transportation options.

Sustainable Land Use

  • Support local farms and local food systems – No answer
  • Encourage local regenerative farming practices/carbon sequestration and soil health – No answer
  • Support/regulate for pesticide-free, pollinator-friendly land management – No answer
  • Ban artificial turf use on town fields – Don’t support

Candidate comments: Sustainable Land Use

For the first three questions, it was unclear to me what the Town Council’s role would be, and therefore, I chose “no answer”. I voted in favor of funding the installation of an artificial turf field at the high school. There are PFAS-free options for such installations, and, as with any decision, there are benefits and drawbacks to both options (grass or artificial turf) that needed weighed and considered. After consideration, I believed the benefits of artificial turf/costs of grass outweighed the benefits of grass/costs of artificial turf.

Zero Waste

  • Adopt current waste hauler proposal (including town contract via competitive bids, universal compost pickup, local composting and pay as you throw fee structure) – No answer
  • Ban the sale of some single use plastic in Amherst – No answer
  • Reconstitute the Refuse and Recycling Committee and Waste Reduction Coordinator position – No answer

Candidate comments: Zero Waste

I support reducing our waste, mandating composting, and increasing recycling rates. The questions presented, however, require more information before I can form an opinion. For example, it is my understanding that the waste hauler proposal is actively being revised. Therefore, I am unsure which proposal this question refers to. As with much legislation, the details are important.